Imprisoned Pussy Riot Member Disappears

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's whereabouts unknown following prison transfer

Pussy Riot Member Missing Prison Transfer Nadya Tolokonnikova
Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Photo by Getty Images
Chris Martins WRITTEN BY
Chris Martins

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is missing, according to family members who say she hasn't been heard from since October 21. While news reports from Russia have been difficult to parse, BuzzFeed has spoken to the imprisoned protester's husband and father, who've helped clarify some of the confusion around the woman's recent prison transfer.

As previously reported, Tolokonnikova staged a hunger strike in order to raise awareness of poor prison conditions and "slave-like" work requirements at central Russian labor colony FGU IK-14 in Mordovia (read her open letter via the Guardian). She'd also reported death threats leveled at her by de facto colony administrator Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Kupriyanov.

But as news broke that Russian authorities would not to investigate that allegation, word also circulated that Tolokonnikova had been moved, possibly to a prison in Alatyr, a small town in Chuvashia, roughly 100 miles east of Mordovia. She was indeed moved by train, but her destination is unknown. One passenger saw her in transit in Chelyabinsk, another 720 miles east of Chuvashia.

"No one knows anything," said her father, Andrei Tolokonnikova, by telephone from Moscow. Tolokonnikova, 23, is a parent herself. "There's no proof she's alive, we don't know the state of her health. Is she sick? Has she been beaten?"

Her husband Petya Verzilov seemed to view the move as a political one, rather than an act of possible vengeance. "This is basically the only way they have to punish Nadya," he told BuzzFeed. "'Let's cut her off from the outside world.'"

Verzilov and other friends and supporters were known to protest regularly near the prison colony and the prison hospital, where Tolokonnikova was taken when her hunger strike became too physically taxing. Her fellow Pussy Riot inmate Maria Alyokhina recently withdrew her application for early release when she learned that Tolokonnikova hadn't been offered the same courtesy.

Both prisoners are scheduled for release in March of 2014.

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